A couple weeks ago I put this post up… well, a version of it. There were some definite problems with the original post, so I've done some editing. And some more editing.
Luke 13:6–9; Ezekiel 11:16–21; Colossians 3:1–5
When I was around 20 I could quote Romans 6. Eventually I started believing it. Many years later I realized it's not only true, but also inevitable.
Scripture presents man's heart as incurable (Jeremiah 17:9). Of course God knew this from the very start: God tells the end from the beginning. God has known from the Fall in the Garden that man's was incurably wicked. But the Old Testament is largely the story of God convincing us of what He already knew. I suppose that's really an act of grace on His part.
Johnny D. put it this way:
What then was God doing with men before? Quickening souls assuredly from Adam on; but in His dispensations with men testing their state for their own instruction; in the former world setting them in innocence in the garden of Eden, where they fell, and then on to the flood without any special institution, though not without testimony. That world became so bad, that it was destroyed by the flood. Then in the new world came government in Noah; promise to Abraham called out from the midst of universal idolatry; the law, testing men and bringing in transgression; the prophets, to recall to the law and testify of Christ. Then God said, I have yet one Son: it may be they will reverence my Son. And when they saw Him they said, Come let us kill Him, and the inheritance shall be ours. Not only was man lawless without law, and a transgressor under law, but when grace came in the Person of the blessed Son of God, they would none of it. The presence of a divine Person drew out the enmity of the heart of man against God: "Now they have both seen and hated both me and my Father." So far from their being a link with humanity, or man as a race, it was the final test of their state: God come in grace, as a man in their midst. The result was: Now is the judgment of this world.(Union in Incarnation, the root error of modern theology, Collected Writings of J. N. Darby, Volume 29, p.193)
So God spent many, many years demonstrating that man is thoroughly evil. The Old Testament prophets give us the conclusion: Isaiah says it this way, "What was there yet to do to my vineyard that I have not done in it?" (Isaiah 5:4). Jeremiah says our hearts are incurably evil (Jeremiah 17:9). But I find Ezekiel's presentation the most striking.
Ezekiel presents God's findings in chapter 11. When things have gotten so bad that the glory of God is leaving the temple in Jerusalem, the Lord tells Ezekiel that He will still bless Israel, but it will require a drastic measure: "And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 11:19). When Jeremiah says man's heart is "incurable", he really means it. God looks on our hearts and He doesn't see a project for renovation. When God considers our hearts, He says the solution is a total replacement.
Human nature is like the fig tree that the Lord Jesus talked about (Luke 13:6–9). When a fig tree doesn't bear any fruit, there's no point having it. You might as well cut it down. Not only is it fruitless, but it makes the ground useless, because it's using up space, water, and sunlight that could be producing something else.
In the parable, the vine-dresser asks the vineyard owner to give the tree one last chance. We don't really know how the story ends, the Lord Jesus didn't tell that far. But we do know how the vineyard in Isaiah 6 ended: eventually the Owner said, "I will send my Son, perhaps they will respect Him" (Luke 20:13). But we didn't respect Him, did we? The Son of God came here and walked with men and women, and told them heavenly truth. And almost from the beginning, they tried to kill Him. They finally took the Son of God, nailed Him to a tree, and left Him to die.
This is the point that is so easy to miss: God Himself has tried to work with human nature. He has given them His Word, He gave them His Law, and He sent them His Son. The end result is that His Son was killed. And notice that it wasn't just the lawless Gentiles who killed the Son of God: it was God's own chosen people who handed Him over to be killed (Acts 2:23). God Himself has been unable to make human nature good. It's simply not possible.
Again I'll point out that this wasn't a surprise to God. He didn't set out to try and fix human nature and then give up when He found it was too hard. That's not what happened. He knew from the start how this would end. The point of the whole history of God's dealing with man was to convince us what He already knew.
So what does God do? Does He give up? In a way He does. He is not trying to reform human nature. He says, "you are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3). God has only one solution for sinful flesh. God forgives sinners, but He doesn't fix them. So He looks at me and He says, "as far as I am concerned, you are dead". And this is the key to the Christian life. I have died, and now Christ is my life (Galatians 2:20). I can't ever be good: God Himself hasn't been able to make me good. But He has offered me something else: He won't make me good, but He will kill me off.
In a way, God has actually gotten what He wanted from Man, but only exactly one Man. The Lord Jesus came here as a Man and did everything God wanted. And really, this was God's plan all along, wasn't it? God has placed no demands on us that He didn't intend actually to fulfill in Christ.
God has found what He was looking for in man, and He has stopped looking. So the real question is, since God is content with Christ, are we? Are we still looking for good in fallen man? Or have we agreed with God that all our goodness is in that one Man who has completely pleased the heart of God?
I know I keep harping on about this: really, I do. But that's because it needs to be harped on about. The fact is that this is foundational truth. The Christian life begins with God giving up on Adam's race. Fools that we are, we generally keep trying the very things that God has demonstrated don't work.